Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Preppers note

I really want to write about my new bike/ car lite, but in light of the world health organization moving this outbreak to a 5 out of 6, I thought I'd address the issue in terms of our family's preparedness.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a prepper. There was a time I was a preppie but that has been many years ago.

In the last year we have made many preparations, and continue to fill in the gaps for what we think will be hard times with peak oil. However these preparations also work for natural disaster, and pandemic.

Over the last year I've blogged about first aid, alternative cooking and heating, food storage and several other areas.

Is there anything I'm adding or doing differently? Well, as a community leader I've downloaded and printed out some materials from .gov sites to hand out, and I will again publicly speak about food storage. But for my own preparations, I have picked up a few things: disinfectant wipes, nose tissues, and ginger ail. I had not really focused my preparations with disposable items in mind, but for this particular situation, I think it could be important. The Ginger Ail is because that is what our family wants when ill. It's all about comfort. We have chicken and chicken stock and turkey soup and even soda crackers, but we hadn't stocked was what we serve to the bed bound.

My prayers are that all are well and that this is of short durations and limited affect.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Updates

It really truly is spring, it's just that some parts of spring are really cool while other days are lovely warm. We have had much needed deep rain, but it has frosted the last couple of nights - nothing that would take out a daffodil or a pansy. I'm dressed in long sleeves with a wool vest looking out to a day that can't decide if it will get over 45 degrees or not. It's hard to get motivated to be outside when its so wet and chilly.

I decided on the location for the two espalier trees and planted them, but the spot really calls for two more so I'll picking those up soon - darn they're expensive though.
I'm going to plant raspberries today - Mr. Greenjeans is hurt (dislocated shoulder) so he is not able to be much help and not at work. I still haven't built the potato condo because the drill is too big for my hands to operate. I'll have to see what I can cobble together.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We're in the milk again

My friend's milk cow has calved and the time of colostrum is done and that cow is producing enough milk for several calves and two families (she is Jersey x Brown Swiss). This is her second year and she is much better at milking - no kicking or fussing and the milk comes much easier. I milked out a half gallon and my only trouble was that my hands got really sore.

The calf is very cute. They are already making excuses not to have him go to the freezer. His daddy is a beef variety, however. I missed pictures of the bummer lambs - so cute!

I came right home and made yogurt and have been reading up on cheese making. Ummmm. Good thing I'm out riding the bike - that fresh milk and all the things it makes is dangerously yummy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Plans for the edible front yard

The time has come to address our front yard. We sort of fell into this house - I wasn't thrilled when I pulled up out front the first time - though we like the inside and backyard. We've never lived near town center before - even if it is a small town.

You can see from the photo how drab and empty the front yard is. My excuse is that last summer was our first summer here and it was spent hand gardening a 1/2 acre. Now I did pull out shrubbary before this photo, but trust me, it wasn't great. This a before photograph, published here for that purpose of documenting a make over. This is the before pictures of our lawn's liberation. You can see the trees haven't even started to leaf out here.

What is awesome is that I went to the local plant nursary and asked for an Espalier fruit tree not really expecting that they would have any, but the owner said, "wow, these came off the truck and I said, "what the ... I didn't order this!" So, we bought two Espalier gala apples - they were destined to be ours. When Mr. Greenjeans met the Espeliars in person, the light went on, and I believe we will be forging full speed ahead into Espalier trees.

I am fairly paralized about the big picutre. The front yard is north facing but we have great east and west sun and the side yard does get southern sun.

Today Chibi and I planted Gladiolas (yes the flowers went in first while I'm plotting the big picture), I top dressed the soil where the shrubs were evicted with rabbit manure, and DH sawed wood for the potato... house.. er condo... I'm going to try the potatoe feature that I learned about over at Rob's world. We want raised beds, and as much fruit as we can get in the ground these first years (last year we planted 4 fruit trees and 3 survived) as well as neighbor appeasing landscaping. I want to work with the neighbors so that instead of being put off by the strange and new approach to landscaping, they too may consider planting useful and edible things.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thinking about getting a new SUB

Yes, it's a major purchase, but I find that I need haul things, you know? Oh.... you're perhaps thinking that as I have a spelling problem that I'm trying to say, SUV. Nope, I mean SUB: Sports Utility Bike.

I live close enough to everything in town to ride or walk, but I find that bringing things home is a problem. Besides I'm enough of a klutz that last summer I struggled to ride safely with a swinging bag or 9 lb laptop.

I like to read the folks over at Homegrown Evolution and have been in love with their bike since this post on taking their newly published book to the P.O.

The bike is by Xtracycle. Sunset Mag. called it a bike that thinks it's a station wagon. You can haul 4 bags of groceries in the panniers, or haul another adult, and there is an attachment that can take long loads like lumber, ladders...

Now, I could either get it as a complete bike from xtracycle (this is a radish - the frame for people between 5' and 6':

Or, I could convert an existing bike or buy a new bike and add the xtracycle kit onto it. That's really the first design. In this case I'm thinking of getting a 7 speed beach cruiser and add the free radical kit.

For a complete car replacement, an electric assist is available for heavy, long rides or rides with big hills.

Don't forget the fender blender for a smoothie mid point in the ride.

Do any of you have one of these bikes? How do you like it?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A riot in the rabbitry

Each morning the bunns get a sweet top dressing on their food. They love it and look forward to it. This morning however I didn't have any made up. I tried to explain that but mid-excuse a real protest of thumping and rattling ensued. So, I took the time to make their sweet treet. In fact I made up a 5 gal. bucket of it. I had all the indredients on hand because I had purchased all dry goods in 25 to 50 pound bags.

Our G4s for Rabbits recipe is this:

2 parts black oil seed
1 part crimp oats (this is their least favorate part and the really picky ones leave every oat. When I run out of this 50 lbs I'll try rolled oats)
1 part calf mana
1 part "Docs" for rabbits (has yucca and papaya and things)
I mix it all together with some warmed molasis and a little wheat germ oil.

I give an 1/6 to a 1/3 cup to the giant rabbits and the Holland lops share a 1/3 C. scoop between 7 of them.
Early this morning there was a purple Ibis in our back trees. We brought the dogs and cats in and watched it for quite a time. It looked as if it had spent the night in the tree and was just waking up. It preened and streatched. This is a shore bird and we are fresh out of shores. We began to think it might be hurt and snuck out with a camara and long lens to get a better look, which caused it to take flight. Perhaps it landed mid migration - alone?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Garden Planning: looking back, looking forward

I know, I know, it's a little late for the planning stage. Honestly I was so sure I'd be able to use the open 1/2 acre garden space of last year that I didn't plan an alternative. Now that the garden is sold and not available, I have to begin the rather daunting task of finding another way.

I've been thinking about many different options - leasing land or buying farm land. I drive around and look at 1 to 5 acres properties, but really I don't need that debt - I need to refinance a looming balloon on this house. And I don't need to be adding a commute to garden. What it comes down to is that I need to make do with what I have: a plain house with a smallish plain yard two blocks from city hall.

We moved here a year and a half ago - this was the house of the person whose position I replaced at church. Last summer was our first summer here and I spent 110% of my energy in the big vegie garden across the street. Now it's time to focus on what's in front of me. The back of the house is south facing and so that is the logical place to plant but we do have dogs out there and it isn't that big. We did plant fruit trees there last year.

While there is still lots going on in the back - I'm going to be focusing on the north facing front of the house. The part that isn't shaded by the house is pretty open and flat - and of course covered in lawn.

Yesterday I began by taking out the ugly fitzer bushes along with another bush that wasn't very alive anyway. What started with quiet project involving myself, a shovel, and a rabbit on a leash turned into a neighborhood project.

There is one disabled guy across the way that comes to help every time one of us shows ourselves for a moment - so he was there and wanted the bushes dragged to his place because he has secured a burn permit and wanted them for his fire. UMmmmm. Then Mr. neighbor came over with a 4-wheeler and a power winch which worked great popping out the small bushes but not so much the larger ones. So he then he got his pick up truck with a chain and up onto to lawn he came. One tow strap broke and nearly hit the one guy who is always a little too close for comfort. The rabbit was relocated several times and as Mr. Neighbor went for his truck I put her up.

At some point the immigrant laborers across the street came home from work and found us entertaining to the point of getting out cold drinks and lawn chairs to watch the action. There was another woman I've never seen before standing around watching with us. Mrs. neighbor came over for a few minutes but had to otherwise keep her toddler occupied.

Mr. neighbor was having such fun (did I mention he got out of babysitting very small children by doing this) that he popped out the roots of the bushes Mr. Greenjeans and I had cut by hand. These came out with the truck and then were attached to the 4-wheeler and dragged across the street and around the corner to the burn pit....under the power lines. (shakes head).

The big job is completed rather quickly - if somewhat more dramatically than I intended when I headed out with a shovel and my rabbit companion. Mr. Greensjeans was out of town taking Chibi back to school after the Easter break. He will return today to not only find his property sans bushes, truck prints all over the lawn, but broken sprinkler lines all along the way where the bushes came out with such force. Did I mention that he hates to take out living vegetation and is plain resistant to change? Well the good news is we don't have the water on just yet as there is more freezing weather to be had. Now, I think I hear my office calling (coward)...... more later....

I need to start taking pictures for you all.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hoppy Easter Monday

On Good Friday the birds arrived again. It was so noticable to suddenly have bird song. Even thought the weather has been snowy and sleeting for the last week suddenly on Easter the sun came out and things were green and the trees had buds and of course the tulips and dafodills had been blooming. Spring was pushing through and the weather wasn't going to hold it back.

After two church services that began in the dark of morning with a new fire, and continuing through noon time, and after a nap, the bunns got out to explore the spring. You can't see it in the photos but there is a carpet of new mint coming up and even some dandilions.

I havn't posted photos of these guys before. These guys are 4 months old. The fawn is Tiffany and the white is Pooka. Pooka came down with snuffles and her growth has been stunted.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bunny Monday

Shhh, we are seeking to capture a picture of the illusive wabbit camouflaged in its natural habitat:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Doomer Update

Well spring has energized me to once again pick-up working toward sustainability. My motivation has several facets: stewardship of the earth, a deep belief that this is what is "right and good", a concern for my children's future, as well as a spoonful of belief that all is not going to go smoothly for any of us in the future. It is this last point - the idea that there is a kind of future that needs special preparation - where this blog tends to find its niche.

While I don't think I'll do a marathon 21-day challenge again (which seemed to coincide with some scary financial times where are still grappling with), I am reviewing family preparedness again. We hardly set foot in the grocery store this winter as we ate the foods we had produced and preserved from our garden as well as those we had stored.

One of the things I'm doing now is looking over the pantry - and seeing how we used our food over the winter. I'm getting a better ideas of how much of what we actually use. I bake a lot, and so in addition to grinding wheat, I used 25# of white flour. Some things were hardly touched - some of the fruits and juices are so prized we hardly get into them duing their shelf life (now that's silly and I'm encouraging their consumption while they are prime). I found I'm not that fond of vinegar pickled cucumbers, and that if I were to try and meet all our needs, I would need to dehydrate onions and potatoes to make it through the year (or get much better at cold storage). We are heavily dependent on onions and potatoes. Dimitri Orlov mentioned how crackers were an item to store and I began to watch how many crackers we really did use.

One place where we are completely dependant: cheese. We love cheese, and yet I horrible at making it. This has to change.

I am entering into a different level of food storage - and that is the dehydrated long-term storage. No I'm not also buying cammo and night vision goggles to go with it (yet ;-). I still plan to preserve the bounty and harvest, but I've lost my garden space for good and I think of the dehydrated foods as insurance in tough times - job loss, interrupted harvests, economic collapse... It's also easy to do here - hey, Walmart sells blue water storage barrels and gamma lids for buckets. The grocery store has an entire isle of 10# cans of long term food storage - dehydrated butter, sour cream, milk, all sorts of flavored TVP, peas & carrots, muffin mix, pudding and on and on.

Reading the super-doomers (who have so far been batting better than say, the media or the experts) I get a picture that while we may soon enjoy a return of what looks like the good 'ol days with the pundents proclaiming the return of a healthy economy and easy money, it won't last long. The idea is that for one thing the card house that is modern economics and culture is beginning to develop structural problems, and for another our infinite energy consumption and finite supply will one day collide.

As the darkness of winter lifts (even if it is still snowing), I will once again be
looking toward posting about our own preparations. Such is the saying: make hay while the sun shines